By Melanie Nathan, February 23, 2014.
The Anti-Homosexuality Bill passed the Ugandan parliament on December 20, 2013. Although the Washington Blade and others report that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill has been signed, sources from the State House in Uganda inform us is that it has yet to be signed by president Museveni.
The Anti-Homosexuality Bill of Uganda, once referred to as the “Kill the Gays Bill,” has been no stranger to controversy, with its surreptitious and quorum-less passage in Parliament, the failure of the Ugandan Parliament, despite numerous requests, to provide the passed and reportedly amended Bill, to press and public, and the inability of Parliament to publicize an exact date when the Bill was provided to President Museveni for his assent.
The Ugandan President, faced with an extremely powerful political tool in the form of this Bill, has 3 options at this stage. He can assent to it, ignore it or return it to Parliament. Assent or ignoring it within a 30 day time frame, will mean the Bill is enacted. Sending it back to Parliament will provide the opportunity for parliament to re-vote on an amended Bill or simply allow the Parliament to re-vote after another read, whereupon it can become law on a two-third vote, which would be likely in such event due to its enormous popularity amongst MP’s. In short, Museveni has no veto power over this Private member Bill, which was introduced by MP David Bahatii for the first time back in 2009. Some believe the time to assent may have expired on Feb. 21.
The Bill has been used as a political ping pong ball for many years, providing the impetus for almost 5 years of persecution, of a previously ignored LGBT community in Uganda. The Bill’s birth is linked directly to the import of hate from U.S. Evangelicals Scott Lively and Lou Engle, and possibly others who have now distanced themselves from its insidious inception.
It would seem that the President, poised to sign a week ago, may have put the anti-gay legislation on hold, while he supposedly seeks further input from American scientists, on whether homosexuality is inborn or a vice. According to Museveni’s statement, he wants the U.S. government to work with Uganda’s scientific community. But this may all be lip service and political shenanigans, all part of the delicate balancing act that has gone on for years, as the Bill can indeed pass without anything from the President at all. Yet he is using his time to play ball.
This is a turnabout after Museveni told NRM members at a retreat that he would approve the legislation, after he received their report by Ugandan professionals, prompting criticism from US President Barack Obama, and others. The US warned that the move would “complicate” relations with Uganda, to which it gives more than 400 million dollars in aid annually. This latest move by Museveni seems to be a direct response to President Obama’s statement, and although it may be seen by some as counter productive, it may well have put a hold on Museveni’s assent to the Bill.
“Uganda dismissed the threat as blackmail but on Friday it emerged that Museveni had done a u-turn and would not sign the proposed law until after hearing from scientists. “I therefore encourage the US government to help us by working with our scientists to study whether, indeed, there are people who are born homosexual,” he wrote. “When that is proved, we can review this legislation.”
But he added: “Africans do not seek to impose their views on anybody. We do not want anybody to impose their views on us. This very debate was provoked by western groups who come to our schools and try to recruit children into homosexuality.”
We all know the notion of recruitment is yet again buying into the lies and myths that have plagued the genesis of this Bill.
Homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda under the Colonial-era penal code. The new legislation extends the existing penalty of life imprisonment for same-sex relations to other same-sex behavior, including the mere touching of another person with the intent to have sexual relations. Conducting a marriage ceremony for same-sex couples or so called promotion of homosexuality, all punishable by imprisonment.
The Guardian further reports that:
“Tamale Mirundi, a presidential spokesman, told Reuters that the bill would be on hold “until more conclusive research is done, and that’s what the president is saying in that letter”.”
Museveni’s repeated changes of heart come as he tries to placate conservative politicians, church leaders, media and the public, all of whom express deep hostility to homosexuality, while not alienating western aid donors who demand that human rights be respected. It is a tension being played out across Africa, where homosexuality is illegal in 36 countries.
Museveni, an evangelical Christian, last month said he would shelve the bill, but last weekend told MPs from his ruling National Resistance Movement that he planned to sign it after receiving a report from a group of Ugandan scientists.
He did receive a report which concluded, inter alia, that: “There is no definitive gene responsible for homosexuality; homosexuality is not a disease; homosexuality is not an abnormality; In every society, there is a small number of people with homosexual tendencies; Homosexuality can be influenced by environmental factors.”
The disconnect here happens to be that the report in fact excluded the aspects of genetics which have already been attributed to homosexuality by science.
It would seem that instead of signing the Bill, the President is playing a game of silly juggle with the West, his MPs and his populace, the latter adoring the bill. Supposedly to see what can still be brought to the table to take down the Bill, while tossing the NRM and populace in the air. Which will be the first to drop? It could be the mere ticking of the clock that makes that determination. Imagine the President allowing the time to pass by, ignoring the Bill for signature and then BOOM when it passes of its own accord, through the expiration of the 30 days, he can blame the West for failing to scientifically prove its case in time. And he would not be seen to be refusing to sign the Bill. He may think that is a way for Ugandan to save face. But in fact it would not be. The only way Uganda can save face will be for the Bill to go back to parliament and the MPs to refuse its passage in the follow up vote.
Simon Lokodo,Uganda’s ethics and integrity minister, suggested the nature versus nurture debate was already closed. “It is a social style of life that is acquired,” he said. “The point is they chose to be homosexual and are trying to recruit others. The commercialisation of homosexuality is unacceptable. If they were doing it in their own rooms we wouldn’t mind, but when they go for children, that’s not fair. They are beasts of the forest.”
Lokodo condemned western meddling in Uganda’s domestic affairs. “When I heard the US saying they will cut aid, we said fine. Will they be comfortable if we come to America and started practising polygamy? Homosexuality is strange to us and polygamy is strange to you. We have divergent views. When they call me wrong, I will call them wrong. Don’t bring it to Africa; keep it there.” (Guardian)
More than 25,000 people in the UK have written to Museveni via Amnesty International’s website, urging him to veto the bill. Gemma Houldey, Amnesty’s Uganda researcher, said: “This deeply offensive piece of legislation is an affront to the human rights of all Ugandans and should never have got this far.”
If the Bill passes, many organizations will have to shut down, people with HIV/AIDS will be driven underground, and it is believed the persecution of gays, lesbians, transgender, bisexual and intersex people will increase dramatically.
In the meantime local LGBTI people have hunkered down, expecting the worse, with many scrambling to leave the country, as they prepare for the pending holocaust which the Bill in effect may bring about. Some have been evicted, kicked out of home, unable to work and are desperately seeking shelter and food. Lokodo has his hunt the gays hit list and is ready to strike. Museveni has said that he is declaring War on the World gays and we must take his remarks at face value. The local Ugandan gays, need urgent help and there is very little available, with reports that those who are not considered human rights defenders are the last to receive attention or help. Many have reached out to me and I have started a Rescue Fund to provide direct help to all kuchus, which can be found here: – http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/rescue-fund-to-help-lgbt-people-escape-africa/x/6400968 .